Attorney General’s Office Launches Online Domestic Violence Training Program For Police Officers

TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa today announced the launch of a new online training program that will help ensure that New Jersey police officers are thoroughly trained to respond to domestic violence incidents, investigate domestic violence offenses, and assist victims by protecting them and referring them for comprehensive services.

The program, which is now available free of cost to all New Jersey police departments, will enable officers to meet the annual training requirement of the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The training program – created by attorneys in the Division of Criminal Justice, in consultation with police and the Training Bureau of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness – covers the legal requirements of the Act related to handling domestic violence. It also covers a wide range of practical information that officers need to know in order to recognize the tell-tale signs of domestic violence and handle the challenges they routinely face in responding to and investigating domestic violence offenses, as well as abuse of the elderly and disabled. By allowing officers to obtain training in-house with complete flexibility regarding scheduling, it will save police departments time and money.

“More than 70,000 domestic violence offenses are reported in New Jersey each year – an average of about 200 each day,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “In addition to the victims, there usually are children or other loved ones whose lives are also shattered when domestic violence occurs. Given the huge impact across the state and the challenges officers face in responding to these emotionally volatile and frequently dangerous situations, it’s vital that we provide comprehensive training.”

“Computers offer powerful new modes of training that are highly effective and cost-efficient,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’re using the Internet to bring high-quality domestic violence training to all New Jersey police departments, free of charge.”

The New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP) had urged the Attorney General’s Office to offer this training online. With reduced numbers of officers, many agencies have been conducting mandatory training on officers’ days off, which entails paying overtime.

“This new online program will enable agencies to schedule training when officers are on duty and during shift overlaps,” said South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond J. Hayducka, President of the NJSACOP. “This will bring a substantial monetary savings to many municipalities around the state, because it gives the police executive the ability to operate more efficiently and effectively. Our association is grateful to the Attorney General and the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice for implementing this program.”

Since the passage of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, the Division of Criminal Justice has implemented a mandate to establish and periodically update a curriculum for the training of all law enforcement officers in the handling and investigation of reports of domestic violence, as well as abuse and neglect of the elderly and disabled. All police officers are required to receive four hours of in-service training each year. Police departments and other law enforcement agencies have used a variety of formats to meet the annual in-service requirement for their officers, including police academy programs, in-house training by superior officers, and training provided by outside consultants.

The new online training program can be used as a stand-alone program by officers to meet the annual in-service training requirement under the Act, or it can be used in conjunction with other forms of training. The program is not intended to restrict county prosecutors or police executives if they elect to continue to require other forms of annual in-service training for the law enforcement officers under their supervision, either instead of the new online program or in addition to the new program.

The new online training is a PowerPoint program that combines instructional text with photos and videos to illustrate key lessons, including tutorials covering various domestic violence scenarios and required responses. An officer can complete the training program alone in front of a computer, breaking the program into several sessions to fit his or her schedule, or the program can be used in a classroom setting where an instructor uses it to train a group of officers in an interactive manner, supplementing it with questions and discussion. The program includes an online test, which county prosecutors and police executives can, at their discretion, require officers to take. When an officer answers a question incorrectly, the program explains the correct answer, providing a valuable review.

Deputy Attorney General Mary P. Murphy of the Division of Criminal Justice Prosecutors Supervision Bureau oversaw completion of the program, in conjunction with these members of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness: Training Supervisor Michael Salvatore, NJ Learn Program Manager Richard Bryson and Joseph S. Buttich, Chief of the Bureau of Training and Staff Development. Attorney General Chiesa thanked the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness for its valuable assistance in preparing the new program. Valuable assistance was also provided by Deputy Chief Investigator Patricia England of the Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards and Sgt. 1st Class Alyson Honrath, head of the New Jersey State Police Victim Services Unit.

The program provides direction to officers in numerous critical areas, including detailed guidance related to the following tips, requirements and procedures, among many other areas covered:

Because victims typically fear the offender or fear the impact on their lives if they testify, officers should investigate with the assumption the victim will not willingly testify in court. They should prepare for an evidence-based prosecution, including taking numerous photos.

Officers should interview both parties separately, as well as family members, neighbors, friends and emergency medical crews, where applicable. They should write a detailed report.

If an officer finds probable cause to believe that domestic violence occurred, the officer must arrest the alleged offender if (1) the victim exhibits signs of injury; (2) there is an arrest warrant for the offender; (3) there is a violation of a restraining order; or (4) there is probable cause to believe a weapon was involved.

Officers should seize any weapon they reasonably believe would expose the victim to risk of serious bodily injury, and also seize firearm ID cards or permits to purchase a firearm. They should obtain a domestic violence warrant for search and seizure of weapons if necessary.

Officers must notify victims of their Domestic Violence Victims’ Rights under New Jersey law, as well as the availability of various services, including the name and number for the local domestic violence advocacy agency. They must promptly assist the victim in filing a domestic violence criminal complaint and an application for a temporary restraining order, if desired.

In most instances, officers must notify the county Domestic Violence Response Team, or if there was a sexual assault, the Sexual Assault Response Team.

New Jersey police chiefs have been notified that the new training program is now available online.

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